Wednesday, July 8, 2015

'How true is your faith that we are going to conquer'

Since my post about Charles Francis Hall and the sculptress Vinnie Ream, I've been fortunate to be able to obtain a copy of the biography of Ream by Edward S. Cooper. And in it, as I'd hoped is a slightly larger glimpse of the love triangle that had emerged between Ream, Hall, and Bessels, and which was, I suspect, a factor in Hall's poisoning and untimely death.

I should emphasize that the discovery is Cooper's, not mine -- but the response to my previous post has shown that, among historians and aficionados of polar history, including myself, this is news indeed.

In my previous post, I offered a passage from a letter of Bessels' as quoted in Cooper's book -- now, its conclusion: "Send by the reply vessel, which leaves shortly, a few words to one who will cherish your memory, dear Vinnie, and who must now, however unwillingly, bid you a long farewell."

And now, from that same source, here is what Hall himself wrote to Vinnie, from what may possibly be the same letter once contained in the envelope that first caught my attention, sent on August 21st:
"Your notes, flags, & other valuables all quickly and safely received by the US Steamer 'Congress.' You should see my sweet little cabin. As you enter it our great noble-hearted President strikes the eye while beneath it hangs the photograph you gave me of the statue of Lincoln. Today I resume my voyage -- the Smith Sound remarkably open -- never known to be more so. You may expect that when again you hear from me and my company, that the North Pole has been discovered. How true is your faith that we are going to conquer."
These letters, as it turns out, have been at the Library of Congress for some time. Would that, on one of the many occasions I was working with the Hall papers, I had known of them!

1 comment:

  1. Wonderful, Russell! NOW to track down more from the sides of Bessels and Ream.

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